Thursday, 30 December 2010

Chilli con Carnage

In a deviation from your regularly scheduled programming, you will be Cooking With Soper today. Like Reinbold, I am a first-year Engling at Robinson, and like Reinbold, my incompetence in the kitchen is staggering. However, I am usually much quieter about my ineptitude. While Lotte produced and blogged the Saucepan Salad for her Engling Come Dine With Me week, I weaselled out of mine altogether. I seem to think that if I simply never cook anything for anyone else ever, people might assume I'm actually a capable – nay, a proficient cook, and I simply choose not to flaunt my ability. Perhaps I'm such a good cook that cooking itself has become tiresome child's play, and I have moved on to astrophysics, dactyliology, or something equally badass.

However, I found myself in a position this holiday where, as a matter of honour, as a matter of duty, I needed to actually produce some food. You see, Thespian Affairs I-IV have been hosted by my friend Jen. Jen is 26, has a house, and actually knows how to cook and things. But, somehow, this happened: “I'LL HAVE IT AT MY PLACE”, said I, blithely ignorant of the fact that this meant I would have to produce a main course for five people. Four of these people are close friends I hadn't seen for a while; if I failed in my mission, they could well die from food poisoning, disown me as a friend, or BOTH. The fifth is my boyfriend, who might find my lack of housewifely potential unacceptable and run off with some girl who has won prizes for her pot roast. So, reader, as you can see, the stakes were high. It's hard out there for a pimp girl who can't cook.

However, before I could have a nervous breakdown, I decided to unleash my secret weapon: my mother, she of the top grade at Cookery O-level, who for years has despaired of my culinary shortcomings. Delighted by what she saw as a newfound interest in cooking (rather than a doomed attempt to pretend to my friends that I'm a functional human being), she decided that I would serve chilli.

Chopping peppers and onions was just about straightforward enough, as was frying the beef, even though in my efforts to turn it over so the other side could brown, I succeeded in launching quite a lot of it across the kitchen. Possibly the highlight of the entire session was the addition of spices, particularly paprika, which was formerly known to me only in its Pringle incarnation. However, the intricacies of preparation were, well, intricate enough that had I not had my mother (who thinks of herself as a Nigella Lawson type, but in teaching me to cook is more like Gordon Ramsay) hovering over me and correcting my errors, I would undoubtedly have been sunk. I did, admittedly, have to portion the chilli out in a mug, because I couldn't find a ladle, but this is a negligible detail.

Tastiness - 7/10 - People ate it. Although the only proper evaluation I could get out of anyone was "it would have been better with lesbians".
Likeliness to set off a fire alarm - 1/10 in my house, but probably 9.9/10 if I ever attempted this within the kiln that is Robinson.
Likeliness to cause a fatal coronary, 20 years down the line - 2/10 - it must be healthy; my mother suggested it.

Friends lost (through death or disowning) with this endeavour - 0! All of them still speak to me, at least.
Casualties - 2 - I burnt my knuckle putting the big silver pot into the oven, and then I knocked a vase over before anyone arrived.

These positive figures are, however, misleading. This would not be a good thing to cook at university. I wouldn't have the time, energy, or enthusiasm to make something this elaborate when I have an essay due and I could just apathetically throw together my faithful pasta carbonara instead. This is why I will never have my own cookery blog, nor will I rise to the dizzy culinary heights that Reinbold someday shall. If she, in her foodie mid-life crisis, is jetting off to the Continent with an office temp called Sandra, I am listening to my wife Irene shout shrilly from the kitchen; but, despite knowing I'm the wrong side of forty and that my bald patch is growing ever larger, all I can muster the energy to do is turn the volume up one more notch on the telly.

This is Katherine's first (and most likely last) guest-blog at Cooking With Reinbold. Her interests include berets, the acquisition of chocolate chip digestives, and Martin Clunes.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Rocky Road To Ruin

You know, it turns out that despite the fact that nobody ever comments, people do actually read this blog. I learned this when I came home from university. Of course, people at Robinson read it, but I attributed that to a combination of my constantly going on about it on Facebook, and the fact that most of them have witnessed the results of my cooking first-hand. But when I came home, people started talking to me about it. Some, of course, mentioned my culinary output in the same breath as 'which is why I've informed Environmental Health', but others seemed almost (almost) admiring. You poor, deluded fools. Now you've encouraged me! Reader, continue in the knowledge that you have only yourselves to blame.

Anyway, the upshot of all this blogging tomfoolery is that my father, who is my friend on Facebook (something of a mixed bag - keeping in contact is good, your parents knowing that your friends call you 'Two-Drinks Winebold' due to your legendary low alcohol-tolerance somewhat less so) showed my dear mama the results of my cooking adventures, who was somewhat horrified by what her middle-born had been producing. Long story short, she keeps muttering darkly about recipes and teaching me to cook simple things, the first of which turned out to be this Rocky Road biscuit, or, as it is known in my family (somewhat less poetically, it must be confessed), Fridge Cake. This really is my sort of cooking. As far as I can understand the process, all you do is melt chocolate, butter and condensed milk together in a bowl, jam in whatever you have to hand (marshmallows, cherries, biscuits, raisins, small children, the meaning of life, the book of Job...the list is endless) and then shove it in the fridge for a bit. I mean, you get a cake and there's literally no cooking required. It's genius. What's more, people actually seemed to like it. I mean, I thought it was a bit disgusting, but a family friend was visiting and ate three pieces. Actually, thinking about it, we haven't heard from him since, but I'm still considering that a result.

So, ratings-wise, the rocky road scores rather well.

Tastiness - 5/10 - Everyone but me liked it. I don't know why I didn't, particularly. Probably just sheer bloody-mindedness.
Likeliness to set off a fire alarm -0/10 - No cooking, as I said. NO COOKING!
Likeliness to cause a fatal coronary, 20 years down the line - 8/10 - There was a lot of chocolate involved. Having said that though, surely the cherries offset it a bit?

But despite this apparent success, I can't help but feel somewhat...unfulfilled. It's as though I'm having a kind of cooking mid-life crisis. I've mastered a basic, I should be happy with what I have...but instead I find myself dyeing my hair and jetting off to the Continent with an office temp called Sandra. Figuratively speaking, this is. I have found myself thumbing through cookery books, dreaming and yearning, yearning and dreaming. Surely this can only end in acrimony and despair? Or is this the dawn of a bright culinary future? Do let me know.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Angel of Delight

My parents visited yesterday. They gazed, vaguely nonplussed, at their middle child, once a cheerful and jolly sort, now a hardened husk of medieval knowledge, ready to unleash a stream of Malorian wisdom at the slightest provocation. Or something. Noticing a spot on my face - well, not so much a spot as an hideous canker - my mother dared to ask me about my level of fruit and vegetable consumption. Recognising that she probably wouldn't accept Appletiser as an acceptable substitute for my 5-a-day (does a can of Appletiser contribute? The can is very misleading. Answers on a postcard to the usual address), I muttered something about carrots and formal hall. But, thinking about it last night, I realised that I have in fact eating strawberries in the form of....ANGEL DELIGHT!

Ah, Angel Delight. I've always liked it, not because of the taste, which is just pink, but because of the strange mystery of how it becomes. One adds a quantity of milk to a packet, bashes it up a bit, and then suddenly a strange solid is born, still part-liquid, a mousse but not quite a mousse. I've always imagined that ambrosia - the food of the gods, rather than the custard variety - is a little like Angel Delight, retaining some its mysterious allure. The packet provides no clue as to how Angel Delight is formed, merely providing an inane series of energetic things one can do whilst waiting for the transubstantiation to occur (well, not quite, but you know what I mean). Upon this occasion, Emma and I found an even better way of making it amazing, by adding cake-sprinkles to the top. Delicious.

Tastiness -8/10 - The pink flavour tastes pink, and the chocolate one tastes brown. The butterscotch one is a hitherto-untested entity.
Likeliness to set off a fire alarm -0/10 - It's just  milk and powder. You'd have to be seriously skilled to cause a fire with that.
Likeliness to cause a fatal coronary, 20 years down the line - 5/10 - Surely all those e-numbers can't be good for you. But the pleasure, ah, the pleasure...

So, it's the end of term. I write this sitting in my disturbingly empty room. I can, for the first time since the beginning of term, see the carpet, and, disconcertingly, it is not the colour that I thought it was. Obviously, the fact that I'm going home to lovely Norfolk tomorrow does threaten to throw a spanner in the works, cooking-wise; however, I am going to attempt to gain some knowledge of the arcane art of cooking from my mother over Christmas, and will document that as and when it occurs. Thanks for reading this, you loons. Next year will bring guestblogs from people like Duncan and Lana who have OVENS. But for now, I'm off to play a dangerous game involving other people's milk (they've gone home for Christmas, so it's fair game), and the remnants of three boxes of cereal which have been in my cupboard all term. Adieu.